Don’t Fall Prey to Selection Bias in Your Career Choice - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus
october 2016 by kme
Selection bias is not the only problem with interpreting our beliefs about careers. The psychologist Peter Wason invented the term “confirmation bias” to critique the way that people tend to focus on hypotheses they already believe, seeking confirmation, and ignore other possible hypotheses without testing them. For example, if I decided as a child that I only liked red fruits, I could easily go through life eating strawberries, watermelon, and cherries, and telling myself each time, “Yes, it’s true—I only like red fruit.” But this is mistaken thinking. What I really need to do is occasionally taste some pineapples, pears, and blueberries; perhaps I’ll discover that many non-red fruits are delicious as well.
Similarly, I might originally tell myself that I could never handle an office job, or that I hate working with numbers, or that I only want to live in New York. While it’s possible to go through life only considering careers that match my preconceptions, if I proactively try to disprove my beliefs, I might be pleasantly surprised.
If you’re still in high school or college, perhaps it also makes sense to try casting your net wider for work-shadowing or internships and testing out some options that might surprise you, suggests mathematics writer Kalid Azad. Many of us, he suspects, fall prey to hyperbolic discounting, a model that suggests we over-value immediate rewards and under-value rewards in the future.
“I could spend a week now shadowing a professor, seeing what the job is really like, but I want to go to on a trip instead,” says Azad. “I’m trading information that could improve the next 20 years of my life for one event! But because of hyperbolic discounting, the net present value of the next 20 years is so low I think the one week of effort to shadow the professor isn’t worth it—and anyway, the next 20 years is a problem for future-me.”
october 2016 by kme